I realize it’s treading dangerous ground to make broad judgments about groups of people. Particularly large groups of people.
Like … a million or so?
But the Endymion thing. I mean, have you been lately? It is insane. Triple bonkers. The crowds. The rowdiness. The turmoil and hedging over spaces and places and ladders and yellow tape and tarps and old brown living room couches.
And then there’s always that guy – always! – who ends up in some kind of brawl or scuffle and ruins the night for everyone.
And yes, I realize it’s a tad unfair to single out one crowd – Endymion’s crowd – and certainly the krewe itself for the sins of Mardi Gras. I mean, what an Uptown thing to do, right?
But there’s always been to me something a little unsettling – even menacing – about the Saturday night before Mardi Gras along Orleans Avenue, Carrollton Avenue and Canal Street.
Do not get me wrong: The floats are absolutely, mind-blowingly awesome. Spectacular achievements of light and sound. And the krewe members throw like mad.
But here’s the thing. Last year was the first year I went to see Endymion without my kids in decades. I was just hanging out with some friends, chilling. The crowd was surely 15 deep and I was in the back, on the streetcar tracks. I am pretty much over the bead thing and hadn’t as much as raised my arms and shouted “T’row me sumpin,’ mister!” even once.
And as the last float rolled by, a big bag of stuff landed at my feet. I knew it wasn’t intended for me. But it landed directly at my feet and I was pretty much standing alone – my group having rushed to the curb for their last chance throws.
So, I stooped over and picked it up. Before I even raised myself to an upright position, a woman had bum-rushed me and was grabbing the bag from me, screaming incoherently and incomprehensibly at me.
I am guessing the bag was intended for her. And I certainly had no interest in its contents, but in the chaos of the moment and noise and flashing lights and the intensity of the revelers, I instinctively resisted her aggression. I was fine with giving the bag to her, but the ferocity of her approach – her claimsmanship – startled me. And before I had the opportunity to attempt to engage in civil discourse over parade etiquette, some guy I never saw coming sucker punched me out of the blue.
She grabbed the loot and disappeared. He stood his ground, sensing, it seemed, that since this was the last float, this was his last chance to do what he apparently came to the parade to do: Fight.
(Aside: You want to know the first sign that you are way too old to get into a street fight? It is when you pick yourself up off the ground after getting dropped and instead of swinging back – defending your manhood and masculinity – you start fumbling around on the ground, arms akimbo, asking the stunned and frozen standers-by: “I lost my glasses! Can anyone see my glasses?”)
A kind gentlemen handed them to me. I put them in my pocket, shook the cobwebs out of my head to regain my equilibrium and then turned to the guy glaring at me with hate in his eyes. He was at least 20, maybe 30 years younger than me. And at least 20, maybe 30 pounds larger than me. I sized up my chances here. They didn’t appear favorable. And then I threw the hardest punch of my life straight into his chin.
He stumbled back. The crowd closed in between us, separated us. There was lots of screaming and chaos. Turmoil. A night ruined, I’m sure, for many around us.
A friend grabbed my arm and said, “Let’s get out of here,” and off we went. A tad later, still dazed and somewhat confused, it suddenly occurred to me: I’m that guy. The guy at Endymion who gets in a brawl and ruins everyone’s night. (Although “brawl” might be stretching the term.)
I wondered: Was this some sort of rite of passage; some claim to tradition? Had I joined an elite club?
Or had I just become the guy I can’t stand every year on the big parade routes?
Hell, the thing is, I don’t even know what was in that bag.
But it better have been nice stuff: Glow sticks, blinky beads, teddy bears and all that. Otherwise, what a waste, no?